Nobody knows more about germs and body fluids than moms and dads. Vomit, spit, boogers, droopy diapers filled with, well, you get the unhygienic picture.
So it makes sense that two parents and an aunt are behind the latest South Florida start-up companies to offer products and services aimed at consumers who want to stay healthy and germ-free.
In an age where school supply lists now include hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes, these local entrepreneurs are counting on a swelling health and hygiene market to find their niche.
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The Internet has been a boon for Kaisa Levine, the North American distributor of a Swedish nasal aspirator for babies and toddlers called NoseFrida. Levine, a Miami Beach mother of two, started her home-based company three years ago. Her product -- billed as a ``snot sucker'' alternative to the blue bulb syringe -- is now sold in 350 small pharmacies, health food stores and baby stores around the United States and Canada, as well as and at select Whole Foods stores and online through Target and Babies R Us.
Levine, a former paramedic from New York, has relied primarily on what she calls ``word of mom'' to market NoseFrida.
Levine, who is Swedish, stumbled across NoseFrida when she and her husband Doug Levine, the founder and former chairman of Crunch Fitness, were in Sweden on vacation with their son, Alex, then 6 weeks old. After the baby became congested and fussy, the sleep-deprived new parents bought NoseFrida in a pharmacy at the suggestion of friends and a local doctor.
NoseFrida, which means ``nose freedom'' in Swedish, consists of a five-inch nozzle, which sits on a child's nostril, rather than inside it like the syringe bulb. The nozzle connects to a 15-inch tube, with a mouthpiece at the end. Parents suck mucous out of the baby's nose (a throw-away filter stops secretions from entering the mouth). The tubing and nozzle can be reused after washing. Four filters come with each aspirator; extra filters are $3 for a bag of 20.
Levine, 45, purchases the aspirators from NoseFrida's Swedish manufacturer, Nasalproduter Sverige. She and Perill store the shipments in a Miami warehouse and do all the packing and U.S. shipping.
Levine said she continues to use NoseFrida on her kids, Alex, now 8, and Elsa, 6. ``This is something I truly believe in and use myself."
Aventura resident Adrienne Moore got the idea for her portable seat covers after flying next to a child who couldn't stop scratching.
``I was so disgusted when I got off the plane, I told my sister that I wasn't going to eat or go anywhere until I showered,'' she says. ``My sister said, `You design everything else. Why can't you design something for that?' ''
Moore, 50, left a career in the design-build construction industry to launch an eco-friendly seat cover business, Kehei Corp., named for the Hawaiian word for ``cover.'' The company sells Kehei Traveler Seat Covers for adults and a version for children called the ``Cootie Buster.'' The soft, cotton and poly-cotton seat covers ($11.95-$25.95) are infused with tea tree oil. The covers come in travel sets that include armrest and seat tray covers.
Moore says she's sold about 8,000 of the seat covers since she began marketing them about seven months ago, primarily at trade shows in Orlando and Las Vegas. They're also available on her website, www.keheitraveler.com.
"Most of my website hits are moms who want to see their kids protected,'' says Moore, who is single and has eight nieces and nephews.
In February, Moore and her seat covers were featured on the Home Shopping Network. She employs a staff of four, which includes an inventory clerk and two salesmen in South Florida, and a public relations representative in Chicago.
Moore says she spent two years coming up with the design, applying for a patent, creating the website and manufacturing the seat covers, which are made in China and shipped to her company's warehouse in Fort Lauderdale. Her website also sells tea tree oil spray ($7.95 a 2-ounce bottle). A self-confessed ``natural freak,'' Moore says she came up with the tea tree oil-infused fabric with the help of Boca Raton anesthesiologist Vladimir Livshutz.
Several studies, including a 2009 Australian study in the Journal of Microbiology, have found the essential oil has the ability to kill certain bacterial strains.
Rafael Esquivel's preoccupation with deep cleaning started in 2003, after his wife Sandra gave birth prematurely to twin girls. The Pembroke Pines couple lost one daughter to an infection. The other baby, who weighed just over a pound, was kept in an incubator. Anytime Esquivel wanted to be near her, he had to wash his hands with antibacterial soap and don a sterilized apron and face mask.
The baby, Katarina, is now a healthy 7-year-old with a baby brother, Erick, 4. But the experience left a deep impression on their father.
``Ever since then, I've become extremely passionate about preventing or trying to combat germs,'' says Esquivel, the chief executive of BioGuardian, a 5-year-old company with a service that hyper-cleans cars, homes, offices, theaters, shopping centers and more.
Esquivel, an industrial engineer, created a patent-pending disinfecting process he says kills a broad spectrum of bacteria, viruses and germs. His company uses air-pressure cleaning tools and micro-fiber towels to scrub-clean surfaces, followed by a hospital-grade disinfectant and an EPA-registered protectant designed to keep off odor-causing germs and bacteria for at least 90 days. Workers inspect the site with ultraviolet light equipment to make sure it's germ-free.
``Nobody can say that area won't be absolutely beyond clean, Esquivel, 39, says. ``Most cleaners out there never apply the surface agitation required to remove the biofilm . . . just spraying a disinfectant doesn't mean an area is disinfected.''
Esquivel's system is used on cars sold by Warren Henry Automotive Group in Miami and Maroone Nissan of Pembroke Pines. He also relies heavily on his website, www.bioguardusa.com, for marketing.